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An image of Totem I (black - the get laid totem) by Brett Whiteley

Brett Whiteley

(Australia, England 07 Apr 1939 – 15 Jun 1992)

Totem I (black - the get laid totem)
Other titles:
Totem 1
The get laid totem
Black Totem Egg
Media category
Materials used
fibreglass and wood

284.5 x 170.2 x 61.0 cm

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased by the New South Wales State Government 1994, transferred to the Gallery 1998
Accession number
© Wendy Whiteley
Not on display
Further information

"Sculpture is totemic, phallic, something that grows upwards from the earth or from the gallery floor." Brett Whiteley

As a young boy, Whiteley was fascinated with bird's eggs and nests, often collecting them and persuading others to collect for him as well. The egg - a recurring element in his work - is traditionally a symbol of fertility. Brancusi considered it the perfect form. Whiteley has evoked a sense of celebration by exaggerating size and scale to create this fantasy totem. He was also fascinated by the traditional burial poles of northern Australian aborigines which he saw at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In them he saw a sense of growing upwards from the ground.

A different vision, Brett Whiteley Studio exhibition catalogue, 1998

Bibliography (5)

Robert Gray, Art and Australia (Vol. 24, No. 2), 'A few takes on Brett Whiteley', pg. 216-224, Sydney, Summer 1986, 223 (illus.).

Janet Hawley, Good Weekend Magazine, 'Still life', pg. 18-24, Sydney, 02 Jul 1994, 21 (colour illus., detail), 22. titled 'Black Totem Egg'

Barbara Konkolowicz., A different vision, 'A different vision', Sydney, 1998, (illus.). titled 'The get laid totem'

Humphrey McQueen, Art and Australia (Vol. 17, No. 1), 'Brett Whiteley', pg. 45-52, Sydney, Sep 1979, 50 (illus.).

Barry Pearce, Brett Whiteley Art & Life, 'Birds & landscapes', pg. 196-223, 235, London, 1995, 205 (colour illus.). plate no. 143(b)

Exhibition history (9)

Birds and animals, Robin Gibson Gallery, Darlinghurst, 10 Apr 1979–05 May 1979

Life and death, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, Collingwood, 28 May 1983–18 Jun 1983

Birds (1988), The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 05 Jul 1988–19 Jul 1988

Brett Whiteley Art & Life (1995-1996):

A Different Vision - Brett Whiteley Sculptures (1998), The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 04 Apr 1998–23 Aug 1998

Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000

Brett Whiteley: Nature, The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 04 Oct 2013–18 May 2014

Whiteley on the Water, Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle, 02 Nov 2013–23 Jan 2014

Brett Whiteley: West of the Divide, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre Gallery, Katoomba, 26 Sep 2014–30 Nov 2014